Follow Spot
by Michael Portantiere

    Rosie O'Donnell with Mary Dunkley; photo by Michael Portantiere

    Rosie Loves Broadway; Kids Get Free Tix!

    Rosie O'Donnell is now in her second consecutive year as national ambassador for Kids' Night on Broadway, an audience development program of The Broadway League that provides free tickets to children ages 6-18 -- but there's a big change a-comin'. Whereas the program was previously limited to a few performances in February, it will be greatly expanded for 2009, as Rosie explained at the press launch at Sardi's on Monday, November 10:

    "Last year, they said 'Would you be the ambassador for Kids' Night on Broadway?' I said, 'Sure, can we do it all year long?' As you know, Broadway producers are notoriously cheap -- but not this year. Starting in February, they're giving us Kids' Night on Broadway every month. If your parent buys a ticket, you get to come for free. That's pretty much how it works. And if you don't have a parent, ask a neighbor."

    Yes! Beginning on February 3 & 4 and continuing indefinitely thereafter, kids can see any of the participating Broadway shows free when accompanied by a full-price-paying adult on the first Tuesday and Wednesday of each month. Tix for February 3 & 4 are now on sale, and tix for each subsequent Kids' Night performance will be available two months prior to the show date.

    Cynics might assume that only relatively unpopular shows will be offered, but no; among the productions already listed as participants are The American Plan, Avenue Q, Billy Elliot, Chicago, Grease, Gypsy, In the Heights, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins, The Phantom of the Opera, Shrek the Musical, The 39 Steps, Wicked, and Young Frankenstein, as well as Off-Broadway's Altar Boyz and Stomp.

    Other facets of Kids' Night on Broadway include a youth advisory board, a study guide (Thru the Stage Door: Broadway 101), a series of interactive workshops called "Take it From the Top," and a special souvenir Playbill written entirely by teens. This year's program will also focus attention on the growing problem of autism and the work of Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the disorder and raising money to fund research.

    Rosie O'Donnell remains one of Broadway's biggest boosters. The first edition of her new NBC-TV variety show, which is guaranteed to feature a phalanx of theater talent, will be telecast live from the Little Shubert on Wednesday, November 26. In addition, her invaluable project Rosie's Broadway Kids continues to enrich the lives of children through the arts, offering classes in dance and music and a professional theater experience to young individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity. One of the project's rising stars, Mary Dunkley (pictured above with Rosie), wowed the crowd at Sardi's with her beautiful rendition of "Be a Lion" from The Wiz.

    "Broadway is one of the best things America ever made," says Rosie. "Life saving? I'm the proof. We should do anything to get kids to the theater, because once you see your first show, you're hooked for life." For more information, visit KidsNightonBroadway.com. Tickets can also be purchased via broadwayoffers.com and ticketmaster.com, or at the theater box offices. (Use code KNOB09.)

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 11:05 PM | Item Link

    Michael Portantiere comes to BroadwayStars with more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for such media outlets as TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has also contributed articles and reviews to AfterElton.com, Playbill, and Stagebill, and has written notes for several major cast albums. Additionally, Michael is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several notable websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.)
    He can be reached at [email protected]

    The last five columns written by Michael Portantiere:

    07/13/2010: Presidential Material

    07/04/2010: Hardy Boy

    06/29/2010: High School Stars

    06/21/2010: Falling in Love Again

    06/17/2010: A Meeting of the 'mos (and Their Friends)

    For a listing of all features written by Michael, click here.